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The Daily Tar Heel

DEC. 7" CHAPEL HILL — For most of her career at UNC" the word ""potential"" hung over Casey Nogueira like a dark cloud. It followed her around" fairly or unfairly.

 With every impressive goal she scored" her coach Anson Dorrance would tell anyone that would listen that she had the ""potential"" to do it again.

In the NCAA finals" Nogueira made the cloud go away.

She willed the North Carolina women's soccer team to a national championship by scoring both of UNC's goals in the title game on the way to grabbing Most Outstanding Player on Offense honors for the tournament in a 2-1 Tar Heel victory.

Throughout Nogueira's career Dorrance said positive things about players who played well — except for Nogueira. Whenever Nogueira submitted a particularly good performance in any given game Dorrance would bring back that dreaded word.

But now" gone are the subtle postgame jabs about ""potential."" They've been replaced by something a little more superlative.

""She has every conceivable soccer skill"" Dorrance said. But that doesn't necessarily make a great player.

""You could be a great juggler and still be totally ineffective on the field. So her evolution as a player is to take all these remarkable tools she has and figure out how and when to use it.""

The first goal was placed so close to the post that the Notre Dame goalkeeper Kelsey Lysander said in the postgame that she didn't make an effort at it — because she didn't think it was going to be on goal at all.

The second goal was more serendipitous. Nogueira meant to place a cross into the box" but it was tipped by a Notre Dame defender coming off her foot" and it arched into the back of the net.

""Two balls that she struck today were world-class finishes" Dorrance said. I'm talking about if both of those were struck in a (English Premier League) game" you'd be seeing both of those goals on a highlight reel at the end of the week. These are the kinds of things she can bring to bear.""

When Nogueira was asked to describe her first goal" Courtney Jones who was sitting next to her on the plateau" whispered to her ""that was the free kick"" — just to make sure Nogueira knew which one she was supposed to describe.

Perhaps she has just scored too many to remember. The 19-year-old junior's two goals ran her tally up to 25 on the season" making her just the ninth player in UNC's storied history to notch as many.

 Most importantly" this season Nogueira forced everyone to stop talking about her potential by letting her game do the talking.

""She won games for us this year" and she single-handedly won us a national championship" defender Whitney Engen said. That in itself is a huge testament to what kind of player she is.""



Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.


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